Let’s talk about exercise, what’s appropriate and what isn’t.
Is a tired dog a happy dog? Really?
Everyone who bought a puppy from a good breeder should have had instructions on what the right amount of exercise is for that breed as the dog grows. I’m pretty sure they will all have warned against taking your 4 month old puppy on a 2 hour hike!
Puppies need time for their bones to grow and develop. Their bones are soft when they’re young and they also have have soft bits inside the ends of the bones called growth plates. Until these growth plates close (and the bigger the dog, the longer that takes) a puppy can develop misshapen limbs or easily break bones if they receive too much exercise.
We’re not saying do nothing, we’re not saying wrap them in cotton wool, we’re just saying take it easy. Slow and steady wins this particular race.
Now, for those of you who have an older dog or a rescue dog you’ve probably heard people saying “A tired dog is a happy dog” and this is true to some extent. There’s also an idea doing the rounds that suggests if your dog has enough exercise it will fix all of their behaviour problems. NOT TRUE.
If your dog is displaying boredom behaviours then yes, it’s likely to be due to a lack of stimulation. Is stimulation taking the dog out and running the legs off it? No. There are many forms of stimulation and actually, mentally challenging activities are best for boredom.
People aren’t being entirely clear that the more exercise your dog gets the more exercise they will want/need/tolerate. So if your dog is misbehaving and you’re trying to resolve your issues by taking it a 3 mile walk twice a day or taking it out to a field and running the legs off it by playing fetch for an hour, here is the news….you’re training an athlete.
When a person is training for a marathon they follow a strict regime, they train daily, they push themselves a little further and get farther, faster, stronger with every training session. This is exactly the same thing you do with your dog when you take it out and push him/her to the limits. You might tire them out that day….but what about tomorrow, or the day after?
What you end up with is a dog who has no ‘off switch’ who doesn’t know how to relax, who is being fuelled by the constant supply of adrenaline (to which they’ve become addicted) and now they’ve got awesome stamina to keep on going with all those bad behaviours you don’t like or want.
So, back it up and teach what you want to see. Calm, controlled, chilled and steady behaviour.
* Firstly, slow yourself down. Keep a lid on any fast movements, high pitched voices, excitement and drama.
* Slow your pace on the walk and insist that your dog maintains your pace, not the other way round.
* Teach impulse control exercises. Leaving the toy, asking permission to take it, waiting to be released to eat food
* Block and stop any hyperactive behaviours, barking out the window, jumping on furniture, over the top play with other dogs.
* Replace these with activities that involve calm concentration – like teaching the dog to search out hidden food – lay a kibble trail in the grass and let your dog snuffle around to find it.
Getting a happy and well behaved dog is all about balance; exercise, food, mental stimulation and training will go a long way towards it!